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New possibilities of diagnosis and therapy for dizziness
Occasional dizziness is a common complaint. With a new system called EQUIVert, the diagnostic and therapeutic options are to be significantly improved in the future.
The new system was developed jointly by researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Microelectronic Circuits and Systems IMS in Duisburg with colleagues from the University of Duisburg-Essen, the GED Society for Electronics and Design mbH and the HNOnet NRW eG. It should enable an objective diagnosis of the symptoms as well as new approaches to therapy.
Diagnosis and treatment so far difficult
Dizziness can lead to considerable restrictions in everyday life for those affected, which in the worst case range to disability. According to the researchers, dizziness after pain is the second most common reason patients go to general practitioners' treatment rooms. However, both diagnosis and treatment have so far been difficult. How strong the dizziness is is often determined by the doctor only by eye.
Objective evaluation of the vertigo
Patients are asked to either stand still with their eyes closed or to walk on the spot while the doctor watches this to get an idea of the extent of the symptoms. However, the diagnosis is by no means objective. This should change in the future with the new EQUIVert system. "With our EQUIVert (...) system, doctors can objectively assess the vertigo," emphasizes Burkhard Heidemann, group leader at the IMS. For the diagnosis, the system uses a screening device called EQUIMedi in the form of a headphone and corresponding software.
According to the researchers, EQUIVert offers objective data for diagnosis, since the EQUIMedi device, which has integrated acceleration and rotation rate sensors, can be used to record the exact fluctuations of the patient. The evaluation is then carried out on the PC using the EQUISoft analysis program, which allows doctors to “diagnose vertigo objectively for the first time,” says Heidemann.
According to the experts, training helps to treat the dizziness, but this is mostly limited to the doctor's practice and there is a lack of effective systems that allow safe and effective practice within your own four walls. Here the new system with the EQUIFit training device offers those affected a good opportunity to relieve dizziness in a simple, safe and efficient way. Patients can exercise their balance at any time - safely, effectively and easily, according to the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft.
Interplay of different sensory organs
In order to understand how EQUIVert works, the scientists first have to explain the causes of the vertigo. In a healthy body, a whole series of organ and functional systems ensure that we stand up straight and can walk safely. Sensors in the inner ear are responsible for recording the movement of the head and forwarding the information to the brain. The eyes convey further information about the position of our body in space to the brain and sensors in the skin, joints, muscles and tendons also send corresponding information to the brain.
How does dizziness develop?
"If one of these systems is disrupted - be it due to diseases in the inner ear, nerve inflammation or various other causes - the balance organ sends the wrong signals," the experts explain. The result is dizziness. However, if the balance is trained, for example on a wobble board, the brain learns in the long run how to deal with the wrong signals. When training with open eyes, however, according to the scientists, the eyes take on a large part of the sense of balance. The vertigo is not really gone. For example, if the person concerned lies in bed in a dark room or closes their eyes, the symptoms return, since the information in the eyes can no longer be compensated for.
User guided by acoustic signals
Training your sense of balance with your eyes closed on the wobble board would actually be the logical solution, but the risk of an accident should not be underestimated. This is therefore not an option for training at home. The scientists report that the problem is solved by the EQUIVert system. Affected people put on their EQUIFit training device and are instructed to stand straight through headphones, guided by acoustic signals, explains Burkhard Heidemann.
Equilibrium feedback through the ears
If patients fluctuate too far to the right during the training, for example, the headphones emit a tone that seems to come from the right, the researchers explain the system. EQUIFit works with the acoustic signals in a similar way to a parking aid and checks "how well the patient was able to perform the exercises." In this way, those affected are provided with a balance feedback that does not come through the eyes, but through the ears, which are closely related to the Balance are linked. If necessary, the device automatically switches to the next difficult level after successful practice. (fp)